Curious matters arising from the ‘national dialogue’

The much parroted Major National Dialogue has come and gone. But its reverberations are still making the rounds throughout the country. This is not so much because of its much acclaimed success as to the fact that it has set even as much confusion as it set out to relinquish. While it is true that no one can gainsay the passion and “espirit de corps” that was brought to bear on the event, the fact that the organizers were reading from answer to question was very evident. For example, while participants would have preferred that team leaders of the various commissions be elected, they were instead faced with ready-made lists from the government bench. However, this can easily be countered by the zest and fervour that was brought to bear on the debates in the various commissions. The question that readily comes to mind is whether that take-away from the Major National Dialogue which is “special status” for the two Anglophone regions is the magic wand to infuse the much elusive peace into Cameroon’s governance apparatus.

True, the special status may be a herald of good tidings like John the Baptist before Jesus Christ. In the circumstance can one be anticipating a new Cameroon modeled along the lines of Canada where minority Quebec is on the same footing with the rest of the country? The answer to this question reposes on what Dr. Simon Munzu referred to as the ‘content of the Special Status.’ According to him, the success of the Major National Dialogue will be judged by the content of the special status accorded the Anglophone regions in the final resolutions of the decentralization commission. What are the ingredients of this newfound mantra? If the special status will not take Cameroon to where officials from president through governor to municipal councilors are elected for specified periods then taxpayers’ money would have been wasted. And talking about taxpayers’ money brings one to where some people feel aggrieved. Did we need to spend all the money flying people from abroad and making Yaounde hotel owners richer only to end up with ‘Article 62’ that was already enshrined in the Constitution?

Another sore point is why the President had to wait for the Dialogue to end before releasing potential resource persons like Christian Penda Ekoka. Worse still, is the fact that the presidential clemency did not extend to Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and the Nera Hotel abductees from Nigeria currently languishing in Kondengui. Their continuous stay in detention certainly bodes rough times for those traveling on the axis between Kumba/Mamfe and Mamfe Bamenda axis as well as Kumba/Mundemba. They are the ones to feel the pinch. Government may be consoling herself with the possibility of an all out invasion of the strongholds of the separatist forces but that will certainly not be the solution as piecemeal solutions are completely out of place in this circumstance. Acute and chronic problems require drastic and all encompassing solutions, not the half measures embedded in the current resolutions of the much acclaimed Major National Dialogue.

Below is what people expected from the Dialogue after consultations at regional level and the Prime Minister’s. Whether their hopes were taken on board remains a moot point but what is certain is that it is a cocktail of variegated opinions that certainly make interesting reading. Exclusively from the Rambler stable…

Mrs. Njomo Omam Esther:

 We did serious mapping of who the key stakeholders are if we want the crisis to come to an end. We concluded that women are one of the key stakeholders with the power to reckon with. The Southwest and Northwest women task force was created in 2018 with the objective of seeing how the ongoing crisis in the regions can be addressed for a possible end through a peaceful dialogue.

Acha Rita Agum, for ‘People with disabilities’:

We the people with disabilities think that it is but indispensable for our preoccupations to be taken into consideration because we are not represented in any decision-making sphere at the national level be it at the Senate, National Assembly or at the level of municipal councils. We think that it can start by bearing reasonable accommodation by applying all the legal texts that are related to the promotion and protection of people with disabilities; mainstreaming disability in all state departments, in all ministries and let it not be just an issue of the ministry of social affairs  but really to have policies and programmes taking in to consideration people with disabilities in all stages

It is indispensable for people with disabilities to be part of the consultation meetings in relation to the upcoming national dialogue. This is because we represent 15 percent of the people living in the Cameroonian society. The number of people with disabilities is on the rise because of the Boko Haram crisis in the Far North region and the Anglophone crisis.

Akere Muna: ‘Dion Ngute can negotiate dialogue if given the right tools’

Dion Ngute can do the job if given the right tools. I met with the Prime Minister whom I know very well, open and frank. I think that given the right tools, he can negotiate this call in our country. …the Prime Minister is part of the dialogue and cannot be the judge of a case which he is a party to.

This is pre-dialogue and if you want to know, we are bringing to the dialogue, then come to the conference center if we are invited. So far, I don’t know if we are invited or not.

The dialogue depends on many mistakes which have to be seriously looked into, to ensure that the dialogue is successful. It is a serious matter, to my understanding; the dialogue is intended to produce results and therefore it is important that before it starts, everybody should know what it is all about. Personally, I don’t have a clear vision of where we are heading to.

Barrister Agbor Balla Nkongho Felix:

It was a very frank and interesting discussion with the Prime Minister. We did appreciate the fact that he was open to receive us. We talked about the number of persons who are supposed to attend. The Prime Minister assured and re-assured us that out of about three hundred delegates, two hundred will be Anglophones. It is something which is very assuring because if you follow the social media, there is a perception, and most people believe that francophones will outnumber Anglophones during the dialogue.

We also talked about the fact that the human rights violations that have been committed by either parties, should induce a measure of accountability into such action because we don’t want a situation where such a thing will happen again in this country.

We equally talked about the issue of amnesty taking, into consideration the fact that it might be too little too late to have amnesty for the time being but that during the dialogue, the participants should raise the issue. We also asked the Prime Minister to ensure that those who are coming from the diaspora, those whose view is separation be guaranteed, that when they come, they will not be arrested. In the African tradition, you don’t invite somebody to your house and you arrest the person afterwards. These are things that were assuring because some of us are in the frontline. We talk to our friends who are in the separatist movement, to those who believe in federation and we talk to those who have appetite with regards to the process so that we can be able to explain to them. To be honest, I think we should give dialogue a chance. It will never be perfect. It will have shortcomings but I think those of us in particular in the Northwest and Southwest, we have gone through hell for three years. Kids not going to school, the economy has been destroyed; CDC is not functioning, business is no longer working. There is general insecurity in those two regions and so it is high time that all of us put our heads together and find a solution. I know people argue that it is not just about peace but it is also about justice. But I think that one step at a time because if we don’t have peace we cannot be talking about justice.

Eric Chinje: former CRTV staff and development consultant.

In the meeting with the Prime Minister, we talked about a number of things. First of all and most importantly, we talked about the upcoming dialogue. What is the purpose of this dialogue? I think we need to have a full understanding of what it is. My take is, the purpose of this dialogue is to determine the price of peace in Cameroon. The purpose of this dialogue is to determine what needs to change and how are we going to deal with the change. Are Cameroonians, 25 million and more of us willing to accept change in every one? We need to know. Ask and answer this question. What will it take? How do I need to change and in what ways do I need to change for the greater good. I think Cameroonians sometimes feel change has to come from Yaoundé. That change has to come from the President; change has to come from some government officials. It is far more individual than that. The police officer who is taking bribe from people, does he know that he is taking bribe from people who pay his salary? The minister who is misusing and embezzling public funds, does he know that he is taking money from the same people who are paying him for doing the job of minister? Every single one of us has to know what it needs and takes to change.

I had a meeting with the Director of the World Bank and he told me he is about to complete a 1.3 billion dollars in funds that go to Angloa. And I said why? Cameroon should have double that…but we cannot with the current system.

The dialogue is about the Cameroon we want. The question now is what is the Cameroon we want? Everyone one of us should ask and answer that question. What Cameroon do we want? And when you ask yourself imagining that you were part of the Cameroon and didn’t make things happen.

Also we talked about how we can define the success of this dialogue. The fact is, I was telling the Prime Minister that this is a historic moment akin to the Foumban Constitutional Conference of 1961. It is a historic moment and when we come out of this, and the historic changes that took place at the Foumban Conference, people cannot sense that something momentous as that has taken place, then we might have missed the goal.

 Bello BoubaMaigari: President of UNDP

Our party is coming in the spirit of solidarity. First of all, we are here as the majority population of this country totally committed to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation. But this national dialogue that has been convened by the President of the Republic, to succeed must be inclusive and to achieve this, our party came with the proposal that the most active and articulate groups be invited to attend and express their worries during the national dialogue. They must be assured and re-assured that they can come and depart freely. Our party has always put forth decentralization. We have been proposing decentralization but the most extensive decentralization be organized in such a way that the elected representatives of our decentralized communities be responsible and answerable to the people who elected them. And this action must not be impeded by an extensive hand of administration.

Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union, Camccul President, Musa SheyNfor:

The first thing we brought was to remind the Prime Minister about our status as the largest network of microfinance, credit unions created in 1968 and by this more than 53 percent of all the financing of the population of these two regions is carried out by our structures which means, we are actually very historic and nostalgic. By that, we focused our proposals on economic and financial recovery because we know that through this, they will be able to handle things like education, agriculture and all other things.

We took advantage to also present to the Prime Minister, the already devastating economic impact of the crisis as a result of this. And now, be reminded that we are structures that do not only focus on the finances that we get but are very concerned about the loss of lives. And therefore, we are very concerned about anything that can make peace return to the NW and SW regions so that we don’t only do economy and money but above all, our very dear lives that we have the opportunity to contributing in protecting. And in all, we gave a very concrete proposal on recovery, reconstruction, stabilization and sustainability because anything that is put in place now, let it have a bit of what makes it sustainable for the entire population. We also brought with us part of the micro finance sector even though it was a Camccul delegation, a delegation of credit unions.

Dr Peter Louis Ndifor, Deputy Secretary General of the Cameroon Medical Council:

We are here representing the arm of the Cameroon Medical Council, platform of medical orders of Cameroon medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses and dental surgeons. One of the main reasons we are here is to table our problems and challenges faced by health professionals in this very difficult setting of the Northwest and Southwest regions. All of you know that the other professionals; teachers and lawyers have complained but medical professionals have concurred to continue providing help because of our oaths and the Geneva Convention that says we don’t take sides in any conflict situation. Given this, most medical professionals have actually paid the big price. Some of them have died, most of them have been victimized for taking care of wounded people from either side. Some of them have actually been traumatized, assaulted and kidnapped. These are the challenges that medical professionals face practicing in these very difficult conditions.

One of the other effects of the crisis in these areas of Northwest and Southwest regions is the difficulty in providing private healthcare services. For example, the follow-up of systemic medication. Those who are displaced in the bushes, how do they receive their vaccination? How do the primary healthcare activities occur?

Apart from this, there are other challenges that we face within this regions. Most of us have mentioned the fact that there is the absence of career pecks and profile.

The other one is the poor financial package that they get at the end of their profession. By the time they compare their salaries with others, it is a bit small amid the risk they take in providing services in these conflict zones. Also, the other problem is the absence of referral hospitals in the Northwest and Southwest regions. The absence of Teaching Hospitals too, came up for discussion. We actually applaud the creation of the Faculties of Medicine in the University of Buea and the University of Bamenda. They should also follow this up with the creation of Teaching Hospitals. You know a Teaching Hospital is where students actually learn, gain knowledge to be able to practice and where their teachers teach them at the bed side of the patient.

Professor Abangma James Arrey, President of SYNES University of Buea:

There is something I want to say. Most of the opinions on what is going on places the state on a very high platform and then the accused persons on a very low platform which is why we feel that the state cannot commit errors and that only the opponent can commit errors. We need to go back to the roots of things; how violence started. We realized many people have distorted views on how violence started and got to this level but we are living witnesses, from people marching with leaves before we found helicopters shooting from the air and all of that.

We are saying the highhandedness of the state must be checked because some people prefer to die when you feel only force can solve a problem. They too feel that they better die than give up. We have to put all these things in to consideration.

It is that governance that dictates the arrogance of doing things. The arrogance of some state actors has to be checked and it is that arrogance that has brought us to this level. So, the current public governance system has to be done with. And it is the idea of it is our time, this is our time and all of that. Something has to be done for some people to feel that it is their time and must do what they want to do. For us teachers, we feel that the two systems of education have to be preserved and none has to be tempered with. So far, for many years now, there have been moves to distort the Anglophone system of education but has met with resistance from the people.

Christian Cardinal Tumi:

I summarize it as this: We are aiming at peace. That is our goal and for that to take place, we think that we should all know that it is God who governs us and the world, and everyone of us will render account of his or her actions. We are convinced that during this dialogue, the truth should prevail. By the truth I mean that whatever everybody will be saying should be in agreement with what he or she is thinking. That is truth. If you are telling somebody, something that does not correspond to your thoughts, then you are lying. So, we must be open to one another. What I have to say is, whatever we have to say as far as the political life of our country is concerned is we should have opinions. Opinion is an affirmation that one holds with the fear that the opponent or contradictor’s opinion might be the right thing to accept but we should come into this dialogue with what I call intellectual honesty; when you are convinced that what the other person is saying is good for our country, you have to bow down.

 We handed over two documents to the PM. We sent out a questionnaire and about a thousand people reacted all over the world and we summarized it so to say. It is in a book. The book has about 400 pages but that book is summarized for those who are lazy to read it fully so that they can go through it and have an idea on what is elaborated in the book. So we have given all these documents to the PM. It is left for them to exploit it. We have been invited to the meeting and we accepted. We are praying now as religious leaders that our country should return to the peace it enjoyed before because hundreds of thousands of our people are dying and suffering in the bushes. Some are dying of hunger and some are dying of sicknesses. These should not continue.

Compiled by Beng Humphrey Fang

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